Girls soccer knocks off Hurricanes
Whitehall’s win over Liberty in the first round of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference Girls Soccer Championships featured two nearly identical goals, setting the stage for their shutout win over the Hurricanes.
Kylie Saliby and Hope Millets hooked up for their first two goals as Saliby’s corner kicks, one in the first half, and the second early in the final period, were knocked past ‘Cane goalkeeper Bridget MacDonald by Millets in nearly carbon copy fashion.
Call it the Xerox set piece.
A third goal was added later in the second half when forward Kate Bonshak stayed with the ball as it pinballed off Liberty defenders, corralling it to the right of MacDonald and sliding it past her toward the far post for the score.
The victory puts them on a collision course with Nazareth who defeated Easton in overtime. The two teams split during the regular season, with the Blue Eagles dealing the Zephyrs their first loss of the season in October’s rematch.
Saliby is Whitehall’s designated player to take the offensive corners. The senior has been in that role for two years, and she tries to find a good target when preparing to kick the ball. It’s the same approach she uses from the back line as a defender.
“I try to look for feet, or just a person in general, so they can have an opportunity to find the net,” said Saliby who earned two assists on the day.
She also tries to find someone who can play the ball with their head because that increases their chance for success right in front of the goal.
She also wants to put a lot of air under the ball, allowing the players a good opportunity to convert the corner.
“It’s high and placement, and I try to get it in front of the goal a little bit so she [the goalkeeper] doesn’t have a chance to take it on the bounce,” said Saliby.
Whitehall entered the tourney as the second seed. They lost to Parkland in the season finale, a game in which head coach Chris Bleam rested a lot of his starters. That victory put both teams at two losses in the conference with Parkland gaining the top seed on the tiebreaker.
Bleam said that championships aren’t won during the regular season, directing his focus on the next two rounds (league and districts) where they’ll try to take home the gold. He said that depth is an issue for them so it’s imperative that they stay fresh and healthy heading into the postseason. He also wanted to reward some kids who don’t see the field as much during the season.
In the win over Liberty, he thought they had a lull once they scored that first goal.
“I thought we stared the game really well, and then we score a goal, and them we’re just kind of like, ‘OK, we’re good,’ and we weren’t,” said Bleam. “We relaxed and Liberty has some really talented players and they kind of took it to us there for awhile.”
One of those players who took it to them was Kathryn Wescoe who nearly tied the game in the first half. Whitehall keeper Grace Clary made a ten-bell save, rushing out to challenge the shot from point-blank range, and deftly stopping it with her upper body to keep them from knotting the score.
Bleam said the second half was a different story as they asserted themselves, maintaining control and attacking with purpose.
“I though the second half was a real good statement,” said Bleam.
Saliby said that today’s performance will help with their confidence as they move through the bracket.
“It’s a really good win,” said Saliby. “We now won the first round and we’re excited to play the next game.”
Saliby said that Nazareth comes at them really hard and it will take a strong effort on both ends to beat them.
“They’re very quick and fast and we sometime struggle with how fast they play, and moving to their speed,” said Saliby. “Hopefully this time we can get on the other end of that and attack faster than they do.”
Bleam said that while they may have let in soft goal in their rematch with the Eagles, they didn’t win because they failed to score, the only time they played their starters and didn’t score all season.
“I think that’s a good match for us because it will get us a little more motivated,” said Bleam.